Faculty Research 1990 - 1999


Initiation in vitro of growth of bovine primordial follicles.

Document Type


Publication Date



Cattle, Culture-Media-Serum-Free, Female, Graafian-Follicle: ah, em, hi, Immunohistochemistry, Oocytes: cy, ph, Ovary: em, Proliferating-Cell-Nuclear-Antigen: an, SUPPORT-NON-U-S-GOVT, SUPPORT-U-S-GOVT-P-H-S, Tissue-Culture

JAX Source

Biol Reprod 1996 Nov;55(5):942-8


Factors that control the onset of primordial follicle growth are unknown. We have tested the hypothesis that primordial follicles from fetal calves can survive and initiate growth in vitro in serum-free conditions. Superficial pieces of ovarian cortex, containing mostly primordial follicles, were isolated from bovine fetuses 6-8 mo old and cultured for 0, 2, 4, or 7 days in Waymouth MB 752/1 medium supplemented with insulin, transferrin, selenium, linoleic acid, and BSA (ITS+). Histological examination of cortical pieces after 2, 4, and 7 days in culture showed that the number of healthy primordial follicles had decreased by 88%, 90%, and 94%, respectively (p < 0.01), whereas the number of healthy primary follicles had increased to 260%, 209%, and 197%, respectively, of the number present on Day 0 (p < 0.05). The percentage of follicles that showed signs of atresia did not change with time in culture and was about 28% and 50% for primordial and primary follicles, respectively. After 7 days in culture, the mean diameter of the few remaining healthy primordial follicles was 1.2 times the average diameter of primordial follicles present on Day 0 (p < 0.01). In contrast, after 2, 4, and 7 days in culture, primary follicles were 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4 times larger in diameter, respectively, relative to Day 0 (p < 0.01). There was little change in the diameter of oocytes in primordial follicles during culture, whereas in primary follicles an increase in oocyte diameter became apparent after 4 and 7 days (1.1 and 1.2 times, respectively, p < 0.01). That follicle growth was initiated in vitro was further confirmed by immunolocalization of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), a marker for cell growth and proliferation, in cultured and freshly isolated pieces of ovarian cortex. In freshly isolated tissue, PCNA staining was absent from pre-granulosa cells and oocytes of the quiescent primordial follicles but was intense in granulosa cells and oocytes of the few growing primary follicles. After 2, 4, and 7 days in culture, PCNA was expressed intensely in the oocyte and many granulosa cells of newly activated primary follicles. These results demonstrate that bovine primordial follicles can enter the growth phase in vitro and that PCNA expression by granulosa cells and oocytes is closely associated with the onset of primordial follicle growth. The fact that a high percentage of primordial follicles initiated growth in vitro suggests that the ovarian stroma exerts inhibitory control over the initiation of primordial follicle growth in vivo. The culture system we describe may provide the means to test this hypothesis and others.